Home | BaltimoreBrew.com
Business & Developmentby Liam Quigley12:37 pmAug 22, 20100

Safety tips for Baltimore cyclists, after a rash of attacks on bike riders

Is it either-or for city bicyclists: contend with cars in the middle of the road or muggers nearer the sidewalk?

Above: Bicyclist on Calvert Street stays out toward the middle of the road.

Contrary to what regular Baltimore Sun comment page denizens would have you believe, carrying a firearm is probably not the best approach to protecting yourself while riding a bicycle in Baltimore. Here are some tips that can make you safer that don’t involve getting a concealed carry license.

1.) TAKE THE ROAD? – It’s important to ride defensively and assert your right to a lane on the roadway – but there can be little tolerance for this from drivers in a city where the police department is quick to use the “accident” label in lieu of a real investigation.

Drivers are often aggressive towards cyclists who barely occupy space on the street – riding towards the middle of the lane might makes you safer from ambushes by criminals, but also more likely to be harassed by a dangerous driver.

2.) TRY THE NEW BIKE LANES – St. Paul is slowly becoming a safer downtown route. Two relatively new bike lanes offer some breathing room from University Parkway to 30th Street, and North Avenue to Penn Station. Bolt Bus and its customers have become notorious for blocking the bike lane there, but according to a Bolt Bus representative, there are plans to move the stop to avoid blocking it in the future.

Bike lane blocked by taxi on St. Paul Street, near Penn Station. (Photo by Liam Quigley)

Bike lane blocked by taxi on St. Paul Street, near Penn Station. (Photo by Liam Quigley)

I recommend using the right lane despite the bus traffic. JHU buses are generally not aggressive to overtake you, and if you feel like drivers are trying to squeeze you out, assert your right to ride in the right lane.

3.) CONSIDER CALVERT TO GO NORTH – Calvert is generally not a popular north bound street for cyclists. It has rough pavement with gaps that can cause pinch flats, and it’s generally narrow enough to make it uncomfortable to ride in, especially considering many drivers travel on it above 35 miles per hour. After recent events, though, some might consider Calvert as a new route uptown. If you do, practice common sense. Anticipate waves of vehicles approaching behind you and ride defensively. Remember where dangerous sections of pavement are, and don’t make sudden lane changes to avoid them at the last minute.

4.) GUILFORD YOUR BEST BET – Guilford is still probably the safest north-south route. You’ve got more people riding it during the day and night. The pavement isn’t terrible, and vehicular traffic isn’t fast enough or frequent enough to be a huge concern, which gives you more focus to be prepared for other threats.

5.) MAKE USE OF HOPKINS SECURITY COPS – After you’ve crossed 25th, you’re likely to see one or more JHU security officers in Honda Pilots who are stationed on various corners along Guilford Avenue for much of the night. Consider adding the Johns Hopkins University emergency phone number 410-516-7777 to your contacts.

6.) START TALKING ABOUT THIS STUFF – If you are harassed or attacked on your bike, or have a concern you want to share, email Nate Evans, the city’s Bicycle Co-ordinator. Nate runs the city’s unofficial bike blog. I’ll include any valuable info in the comments in this post or in future articles.

Night, Baltimore. (Photo by Liam Quigley)

Night, Baltimore. (Photo by Liam Quigley)

The recent attacks increase the need for an ongoing dialogue and greater understanding of the needs of cyclists by the Baltimore Police Department. That’s why it’s important to have people communicating effectively on behalf of Baltimore cyclists –- like at the City Council hearing and voting session scheduled for 2:30 pm on Monday Aug. 30 in the Reeves Conference room on the fourth floor of City Hall. It’s a work and voting session for the Community Development Subcommittee.

They will be discussing several important bike bills: one concerning the relations between bicyclists and the police, another about bike lanes and a third on switching grates to the road-safe kind. The council tackled these bills earlier this year and the Brew wrote about it.

– Liam Quigley is the president of the MICA cycling association and regularly commutes between Downtown and Upper Charles Village.  Watch for more bike-centric posts from him on the Brew.

Most Popular